New SOLAS Regs Tackle Confined Space Entry

27324652_2a7df49849With most of the recent regulatory focus being on the new SOLAS verified gross mass rule for packed containers, another new regulation has entered into force aimed at enhancing the safety of seafarers entering enclosed spaces by requiring ships to carry portable atmosphere testing equipment on board.

Enclosed spaces are spaces that have limited openings for entry and exit, inadequate ventilation and are not designed for continuous worker occupancy. Atmosphere in any enclosed space may be oxygen-deficient or oxygen-enriched and/or contain flammable and/or toxic gases or vapors.

Entering enclosed spaces on ships presents a major hazard to seafarers and has been blamed for countless deaths over the years, often times involving more than one person at a time.

The new regulation XI-1/7 Atmosphere testing instrument for enclosed spaces in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), requires ships to carry an appropriate portable atmosphere testing instrument or instruments, capable, as a minimum, of measuring concentrations of oxygen, flammable gases or vapors, hydrogen sulphide and carbon monoxide, prior to entry into enclosed spaces.

Enclosed spaces covered by the regulation include cargo spaces, double bottoms, fuel tanks, ballast tanks, cargo pump-rooms, cofferdams, chain lockers, void spaces, duct keels, inter-barrier spaces, boilers, engine crankcases, engine scavenge air receivers, sewage tanks, and adjacent connected spaces, among other areas. The list is not exhaustive and enclosed spaces should be identified and listed on a ship-by-ship basis, the IMO says. 

Similar requirements for offshore drilling units are also entering into force, under amendments to the Code for the Construction and Equipment of Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (1979, 1989 and 2009 MODU Codes).   

Associated Guidelines to facilitate the selection of portable atmosphere testing instruments for enclosed spaces as required by SOLAS regulation XI-1/7 (MSC.1/Circ.1477) have been agreed, to facilitate the selection of a portable atmosphere testing instrument for enclosed spaces.